It’s sometimes hard to tell the season in Ireland by looking out the window or observing what the inhabitants are wearing. From the middle of March to the middle of May there seems to be no appropriate clothing. Both winter and summer wardrobes could be called on. Odd days of sunshine and 18 degree temperatures call for lighter garments and delightfully herald summer, but just as you attempt to box up the sweaters wintry downpours and east winds prevent you from stepping out of the opaque tights just yet! Brighter evenings lull you into a false sense of rising temperatures but it is often the opposite. But still, we’re Irish and the longer daylight hours, despite the actual weather, put smiles on our faces and hope in our hearts for a marvelous summer ahead.
The other way of knowing that spring is here and summer is on the way is often in the local events. After St Patrick’s day the glut of festivals start to appear on the horizon. Tentatively at first, the gentler ones lead the vanguard for the Spraoi climax in August. We were very fortunate in Waterford this year to have had an early start in March with the National Lottery’s St Patrick’s Festival choosing the city quays as a venue. Thanks to Spraoi we have been truly spoiled in Waterford when it comes to fireworks. To be honest the National Lottery was up against it as at this stage we are very discerning when it comes to fireworks. Thankfully they pulled it off and we were all suitably impressed.
The next festival event on the calendar takes place this weekend in Dungarvan, The Waterford Festival of Food. Following on from the 2008 success, the inaugural year, a second event was inevitable. Fortunately it seems to have avoided any recession calamity and is going ahead this Friday, Saturday and Sunday the 17th, 18th and 19th of April. Sadly I was away this time last year so I missed it but I did see the extensive coverage on RTE’s Nationwide and it looked fantastic. Also anyone I spoke to about it was particularly impressed with the family aspects of the programme and how there was something for eaveryone out on the streets as well as the ticketed events.
I suppose it’s easy to see how it should be a winner when you consider what the whole thing hangs on food; a pleasure as well as a necessity. Who doesn’t stroll through markets, here or abroad, marveling at all the delights on offer? I am always slightly envious of our European counterparts. They have cultivated the idea of local food into wonderful busy produce markets in cities, towns and villages. The average Continental shops happily in a market place. Here in Ireland we still see Farmers Markets sometimes as snobbish ‘Foodie’ domains, although thankfully that attitude is changing and events like the Waterford Food Festival help greatly. It really is a family festival that everyone can enjoy.
The other good thing about the food festival is that it brings all the local producers together in one forum. Sometimes small artisan food producers have bigger markets abroad than they do in their own local environment. Often this is just because the local market is unaware that they exist. Many of the local producers will have stalls around Dungarvan over the weekend and many of the local restaurants will feature specially created festival menus that will highlight locally sourced produce. The programme for the event is as follows:
The official opening of the festival will take place in Dungarvan Town Hall on Friday evening, April 17. Highlights include cookery demonstrations on Saturday, April 18 at Dungarvan Town Hall with Kevin Dundon of Dunbrody Country House Hotel; Paul Flynn of the Tannery; Martijn Kajuiter, Cliff House Hotel; Eunice Power, Powersfield House; Conor Foran, Lawlors Hotel as well as Regina Sexton, Chef and Food Historian.
A definite must will be the BYO (bring your own) Picnic event at Walton Park on Saturday afternoon where the Dungarvan Brass Band and the Barrack Street Brass Band will entertain from 3pm. If the weather holds up for this one it will be lovely as the new Walton Park is a smashing choice of venue. Saturday also features events for younger food lovers; a ‘biscuit & bun decorating workshop’, a food-based table quiz at Garvey’s SuperValu, Pizza making at Davitt’s and the hugely popular Agri-Aware mobile farm which will be located on the grounds of Dungarvan Castle.
Founder of the Waterford Food Producers Network and author of the popular book ‘Trading Paces, From Rat Race to Hen Run’ Michael Kelly will host a workshop ‘Eat well for less – the joys of producing your own Food’ which will also feature visits to kitchen gardens at the Tannery and Nude Food. On a similar theme of ‘home growing’, Fiona Crowe of the Rosinver Organic Centre will deliver a seminar on ‘Breeding and Rearing Hens’ also at Dungarvan Castle. Patricia Quinn, nutritionist, will team up with Luke Sweetman author of ‘What to Eat when you can’t eat anything’ and chef Naoise O’Cathasaigh to present a dynamic and informative seminar on having fun in the kitchen while addressing allergies and healthy eating habits. Saturday also offers the opportunity for visitors to explore County Waterford on the Bus Bia with a choice of three tours departing Dungarvan from 10.30am until 1.30pm featuring various West Waterford food producers.
Darina Allen will feature as a guest speaker at the Farmers Market on Sunday, April 19 while Peter Ward, chairperson of Bord Bia Taste Council, artisan food producer and retailer will host a breakfast discussion at 10am on Sunday, April 18 in the marquee at the specially established ‘Pork Plaza’. The Pork Plaza will be located in the adjoining open area at Dungarvan Shopping Centre. Live music will be dotted around and a host of other side exhibitions and events are lined up. For a full listing check out www.waterfordfestivaloffood.ie and then pray hard for fine weather; it will no doubt make the weekend.